The Government is giving NIWA $4.9 million to find out what climate change will do to New Zealand's marine life.
It is part of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment's latest round of science investments.
NIWA will investigate what increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is doing to the ocean, and what effect that has on sea life.
NIWA ecologist Vonda Cummings said they will focus on the Hauraki Gulf, Nelson Bays and Karitane in Otago, and look specifically at paua, green-shell mussels and snapper.
She said those have been chosen because they were commercially important, and a part of New Zealand's culture.
Ms Cummings said the research would take four years.